Things I Think

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55 Responses

  1. Nonnie says:

    Happy birthday , Sarah. You are so appreciated here!!

    Great thoughts, Michael! I agree whole heartedly with some and pondering others.

  2. ” I think I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again after teaching Titus 3 last night…the Protestant church has really missed the mark when it comes to the importance of works…”

    You are either misreading the text or you are misreading Christian culture. there is not a segment of human relief or charity that was not started by The Church / Christians or that are not continually run by them.

    My church body is neck high in schools, senior centers, human relief centers (national and worldwide), human life / right to life, homes for the mentally disabled – food for the hungry programs – you name it and we are there … and we are not alone.

    I think comments like your #6 are there to create strife, guilt and division. If you want to say independent protestant churches, then do so.

  3. Happy Birthday to Sarah

  4. Xenia says:

    1. I have to agree about the “Jewish Christian” label people put on themselves, especially if they are not ethnically Jewish. Fake Hebrew-speak, bastardized keeping of the Jewish holidays, calling Jesus anything except Jesus (too Greek), disdain for the word “Christian,” and an alarming tendency to drift towards anti-Trinitarianism. (Not all but I’ve seen it.)

    2. I think when one’s “spiritual director” (a good Catholic phrase) turns out to be a creep, to renounce him might mean renouncing God in some people’s minds because the leader presents himself as being the express image of God. You see that in the blogging world, how people have fallen away from Christ because they had confused their leader with Christ and when he fell, it all fell. It shouldn’t be this way; one’s faith in Christ should not be threatened by the actions of a pastor.

    3. There is a a genuine laity/ clergy divide because only clergy can preside over the Eucharist and other sacraments. Like it or not, this makes them “special.” But I have noticed that priests (and Lutheran pastors, I think) who have this authority don’t have cult followings. The cult following proceeds from a pastor being given too much pulpit time where he can tickle the ears of his congregation. Celebrity pastors don’t often arise in liturgical churches where the priest/pastor has to stick to the script.

    4. I thought the FB movies were kinda silly, as if I was the star of my own documentary, complete with dramatic music. Mine is mostly pictures of my hens and my Chihuahua. A good title for mine would be “The Life of Xenia as seen through the Eyes of Numerous Small Animals.”

    5. It would be good to hear some positive stories but we better be careful in the telling that we don’t begin to make celebrities out of these good pastors.

    6, 7. Yep.

    8. Well, since I go to confession every Saturday night…. just a few days ago.

    9. I don’t get the fan clubs, either. While I don’t know what happened over there in that orphanage, the Devil was at work doing something quite evil. Those 50+ thousand fans of the director- they don’t know what happened over there either. I am bothered that he received accolades upon his return to the states. I think a quiet, prayerful reserve should be everyone’s attitude until they have all the facts. (If that ever happens.) But cheering….. totally inappropriate.

    10. Happy birthday Sarah!

  5. Steve Wright says:

    Michael, I don’t think any Gentile, including me, can relate to the cultural aspects of the Jewish ethnicity – aspects that have been essential in keeping them distinct as a people for the last 1900+ years. There has been throughout Church history the idea that a Jew has to give up their culture to embrace Christ, when we put no such burden on other cultures – in fact we encourage missionaries to be sensitive and adaptive to native cultures where they are working.

    Of course, the Jew is no more obligated to give up their culture than anyone else – but meanwhile the Church will tell a new Jewish convert to Christ, “Here is a ham sandwich, you’re in Christ now” at their first church picnic. Where is the love in that?

    Likewise, there is a kneejerk response today when sharing Jesus with a stranger that sometimes the reply is “Well, I am Jewish” – as if the Jews somehow are excluded from the need for Christ or as if it is actually wrong for a Christian to share their faith with a Jew. It is said to stop conversation and the witness for Christ.

    In both of these circumstances, if one can identify as a Messianic Jew, it can be used for God’s glory and to increase love.

    In Christ there is neither male nor female we are told, yet male and female distinctions do not disappear at salvation. There is neither bond or free, yet in Rome one’s status in society did not change at salvation (nor does it in ours). We then are told there is neither Jew nor Gentile – well, once more it seems obvious that those distinctions, unrelated to the religion of the old covenant, do not disappear at salvation either.

    Steve, married to a Messianic Jew, Wright

  6. I agree with your Jewish / Christian comment – as if anyone wouldn’t guess. 🙂

    But I particularly like this segment “Judaism and Christianity are two distinct faiths,”

    In the rapture theology movement of american evangelicalism, Judaism is considered pre Christian … as in “you are almost there.”

  7. Michael says:

    “I think comments like your #6 are there to create strife, guilt and division.”
    My goal is always to create thoughtful discussion…to send people back to the text to see what I’m talking about and see if it has any veracity.
    People can then come to these comments and speak to those things, just as you have.
    I will say that few are better able to speak about strife and division than yourself, however.

  8. Michael says:


    When I have spoken to Native Americans enjoying that same cultural symbiosis all hell broke loose.
    I refuse to buy into this narrative that somehow ethnic Jews get a pass others don’t.

  9. Michael says:


    Well sais… I’m also backtracking our church history and hope to have a little thing about Irenaeus up soon…

  10. Perhaps Titus 3 hit you and your lack of charity and works and you project it on the whole church. When they had the tsunami in Japan and then the typhoon in the Philippines – it was the church that was already bringing relief before the US government.

    I think you are doing the church a disservice on this one. – but I guess that is just my opinion and I am sure you will get much more support for the comment than my dissent.

  11. Xenia says:

    I dunno… If an ethnically Jewish family converts to Christianity and they want to continue celebrating the OT feasts, emphasizing their fulfillment in Christ, and if they find bacon truly revolting, what do I care? As long as they don’t think they are somehow superior to Gentiles, or sneer at Christmas and Easter, or pick and choose which Christian doctrines they want to believe, I don’t care if they prefer kosher food and celebrate the old holidays for nostalgia’s sake. No skin off my nose!

    Gentiles who do this…. Ugh.

  12. Nonnie says:

    I believe that churches who teach a gospel of grace and of the goodness of God in this sin-filled world, send out people who are filled with the Holy Spirit and they go out into this world with the hope of shining the light of Christ through sharing, in word and in deed. They don’t do it out with a works righteousness mindset, but because they love the Saviour and want to share that love with others.

    I don’t understand how anyone who has heard the gospel and whose life has been transformed by the Spirit, would not desire to have good works for Christ.

    So I guess I don’t understand your number 6.

  13. Paige says:

    Happy and Blessed Birthday to Sarah!

    I loved the Facebook videos! My own video made ME tear up with thankfulness! Perhaps some regular perusing of my life would generate even more thankfulness! I loved that most of the ones I watched were all about family. Love HOME life.

    Define Repentance….. I seek forgiveness several times daily. Such a sinner, I am!

    Christian or not, I totally enjoy my various contacts who actually have deeply embedded ethnic roots, values, traditions and practices. I may be wrong, but I’ve always felt that a Jewish convert has an added dimension to their enlightenment, not ‘more’ per se, but a degree of culture that I know nothing of.

    I’m reading through the Bible, 3 chapters a day, alternating OT & NT. Glad to be done with Exodus. Had some serious questions about God…. perhaps a Jewish Christian has a better understanding. I was ready to bail. True story. What kind of God loves to kill people and animals? What’s with all the interior decor details and why did Aaron only get a slap on the wrist for his b.s. ‘this calf just jumped out of the fire’ when 3,000 people were killed by the priestly tribe? Not too far from the current messes we see.

    My current conflict is how do modern believers sift the OT, and how do they/we choose what parts to keep (oh, definitely keep tithing!), and what parts to dismiss to ‘oh that was culture then’ like, hello, circumcision of family, house guests and neighbors. The older I get, the less I get…. and I don’t think it’s dementia, those most would say it is. 🙂
    Seems to be some sort of fluctuating filter….

    We’ve been snowed in for several days. I love snow, but I haven’t worked at all…. somehow I still believe God will provide. He always has. Check my Facebook video. Love ya

  14. I liked Xenia’s comments about the pulpit and the stars. Lutherans, like the RCC and all churches at the time of the reformation, (I don’t know where the EO place the pulpit) place the pulpits and the lectern off to the side – just as the choir was at the back of the church. The people were not the important ones – God was working through them. Front and center was the cross and the altar.

    I wonder, when the first guy put the altar in the center, did he explain “ah, now you can see ME better.”

  15. Paige,
    “My current conflict is how do modern believers sift the OT, and how do they/we choose what parts to keep (oh, definitely keep tithing!), and what parts to dismiss to ‘oh that was culture then’ like, hello, circumcision of family, house guests and neighbors.”

    Here is my answer – there is not one thing that we are obligated to in the OT. For the Christian it is historical and cultural background. it tells of of God’s operation with the Jewish people.

  16. Xenia says:

    They don’t do it out with a works righteousness mindset, but because they love the Saviour and want to share that love with others.<<<

    This is a pet peeve of mine. Upon my conversion to Orthodoxy, my old CC friends would say the I was working my way to heaven. Yet they themselves (some of them) were busy all the time, doing ministry work. I'd would say, "You are busier than I am in doing good works." Then they would say "We do it because we love God *so much* and you do it because you think it will get you into heaven." *Their* motives are pure and *our* motives are self-serving. They love God oh so much and we just love ourselves. It's hard to have much of a conversation after they tell you that *they* love God so much more than I do. And maybe they do, who knows. But they are ascribing wonderful motives to themselves ("We love God!") and the worst motives to others ("You don't!")

  17. Michael says:

    OK, we’ll talk about #6.
    In much of the teaching I’ve been exposed to, works were always set off in contrast or even opposition, to faith.
    Take a gander at any of the discernment sites that are always carping about the “social gospel” and you’ll see what happens when this teaching goes to seed.
    In my opinion, we Protestants have been so careful to protect justification by faith through grace alone that we have under preached the importance of works as they are laid out in Scripture.
    That’s what I think…

  18. Xenia says:

    I don’t know where the EO place the pulpit<<<

    Our parish doesn't even have one. We have a simple wooden lectern that an altar server drags out when it's time for the homily.

  19. Paige says:

    MLD, I agree….. however, we all know of 7th day Adventists…. we all know about the heavy duty emphasis on tithing…and we all know that God hates divorce (one of the most out of context quoted verses)…all OT stuff….. I just find it so curious in modern preaching how some things (particularly tithing and how God hates divorce, but especially tithing omg)

    I may have to read Romans alongside my next OT book to keep sane. 🙂

  20. Xenia says:

    In my evangelical experience, Michael’s #17 is exactly what I have seen as well. (My only experience is with Baptists and CC.)

  21. Tim says:

    Happy birthday Sarah!

  22. I see both sides of the “works” conversation here. In teaching, I do hear a larger gap between faith and action than seems to be laid out in scripture.

    However, all the people I know who are actively doing good works in the world are Christians, so I don’t want to ignore their efforts.

  23. Nonnie says:

    Xenia, respectfully, I would never accuse you of that.

  24. Xenia says:

    Nonnie, I know you wouldn’t.

  25. Xenia says:

    I think people would have to be on the receiving end of “We work because we love God and you work because you are selfish” to fully get how offensive this is, if one is of a mind to be offended.

    (Not you, Nonnie!!!)

  26. Xenia says:

    And half the time they are referring to baptism and communion as “works.”

  27. Xenia says:

    Welp, I have made about 1/3 of today’s posts. Time to back off a little.

  28. Jim says:

    “#9. When we run stories like our reports on child abuse in a Philippine orphanage it’s not the leaders involved I fear…it’s their fan clubs. Once again, the biggest detriment to church discipline is in the pews.”

    That was my experience with the SGM blog. I published a phone number and email address that my wife didn’t access, because I didn’t want her to know how crazy some of the fans were. Of course, none of them actually wanted to meet face to face….

    Don’t fear bullies, as they are cowards.

  29. Nonnie says:

    Xenia, re; your 26.

    That is funny you would say baptism and communion as related to “works,” because as I am coming to understand (through studying the Anglican Church anyway), that Baptism and communion are both something that Jesus gives/emparts, and is of/from Him ( a grace) to those who come to receive. Whereas in the Evangelical church I always thought of Baptism as something I “DO” out of obedience, (I’m getting baptised )…… and communion is something I “take.” “We are now going to take communion.”

    I am actually starting to see these sacraments as truly gifts (grace) from the Lord, to be viewed as something precious to “receive “rather than something I “take” or I “do.”

    Maybe I had it wrong all these years, but this is the way I am seeing it now.

  30. filbertz says:

    #1 ______________ Christian, regardless of the adjective, demonstrates a misunderstanding of the central themes of Hebrews, Galatians, and John’s Gospel.
    #2 Jesus taught that one cannot serve two masters. Too many are serving the leader instead of those led.
    #3 In too many evangelical/protestant churches, the pulpit now represents the center of power, leadership, and authority.

    that’s all I can think right now. My head hurts. 😉

  31. Steve Wright says:

    Sorry I was away in a meeting discussing how we can have a greater impact for good works in our community as a church. 🙂

    Michael, you wrote “When I have spoken to Native Americans enjoying that same cultural symbiosis all hell broke loose. I refuse to buy into this narrative that somehow ethnic Jews get a pass others don’t.”

    However, I said the exact opposite. “we encourage missionaries to be sensitive and adaptive to native cultures where they are working.”

    My point is to not put an anti-cultural burden on the Jews we don’t put on others. I recognize some things that are cultural are also religious in nature, and thus no longer have place in a new Christian’s life. I am especially sensitive to that reality in my connection to India. Sometimes “Indian” and “Hindu” are used simultaneously and of course that should not be the case.

    I’m not sure how anyone can read Acts and not see that in fact there WAS a distinction in God’s word and the early council of the early church between Jewish Christian and Gentile Christian. Now, if someone wants to tell me what year that ended, when God said it didn’t matter anymore, I’m all ears.

  32. Steve Wright says:

    Don’t fear bullies, as they are cowards.
    Not only has Jim spoken truth but that truth is only magnified in this era of emails and voicemails and other non-face-to-face communication.

  33. sarahkwolfe says:

    Michael….you are far too kind!!! Thank you for such a great birthday greeting today. I’m so thankful for this place and all the friendships which have blossomed from these rooms of words. Always wish I had more time to be involved!!!

  34. filbertz says:

    a bully may be a coward, but one may surely injure you proving to himself and others that he’s not. 🙁

  35. Sarah,
    Happy birthday!!!

  36. sarahkwolfe says:

    Thanks!!! 🙂

  37. Jim says:

    #34 is true. One of my “fans” was a cop in a town not too far away.

  38. 1. Yep. Glad my Jewish ancestors that converted didn’t try to hang on to their Jewishness.
    4. The hipsters are annoying me too. I like the FB videos. Don’t watch them if you don’t like them.
    6. Sorry, this comment of yours is a disconnect to me also. I have always seen an outworking of faith in the Church. Is it just a matter of certain works you don’t think they are doing?
    9. Is disappointing.
    10. Happy birthday, Sarah!

  39. Getting your identity from your ethnicity ALWAYS brings conflict

  40. Xenia says:

    An example from my time in CC women’s ministry might demonstrate what Michael is talking about in his #6:

    We (the leaders of the WM) are sitting in a circle, planning out the next year’s activities.

    We set dates for the usual Bible studies, teas, parties and pool days.

    I suggest we do something to help the poor in our area and give some suggestions.

    Uncomfortable silence.

    Finally, someone says, “This sounds too much like salvation by works.”

  41. X,
    Did your former CC never do anything for the poor?
    Were no good works evident at all?

  42. Xenia,
    I would assumed that these were all people who assumed they were already saved. So when the person said “This sounds too much like salvation by works.” – were they trying to protect their salvation by refusing to do charitable works?

    Wouldn’t a leader stand up and quote Eph 2:10?

  43. Xenia says:

    Derek… All I know is our women’s ministry did very little (almost nothing) to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc, while I was there. As far as good fruit, I think many women benefited from the Bible studies.

    MLD, you put your finger on the paradox. “Hey, ladies, since you are all already saved (OSAS and all that) then you will not be putting your salvation in peril by helping out at the local soup kitchen!”

  44. Xenia says:

    Yet we were all very busy, teaching in the children’s ministry, putting out the TV and radio programs, etc. etc. For this group, “feeding the hungry” meant “feeding them the Word” and clothing the naked meant “showing people how to be covered by Christ’s righteousness.” I think there is validity to this but I think Christ was also speaking about physical help- real food as well as spiritual food.

  45. I was just wondering if it was mainly the women’s group. Just find it hard to see the church as a whole not doing things for the poor. That is why I asked about the church you attended as a whole.

  46. Let me state something first…there is much to learn from studying Judaism. It illuminates a lot in scripture.
    However, nothing gets my dander up quicker than someone telling me that I am missing out on a blessing, not fully experiencing Christianity or in sin for not observing (insert Jewish custom or Law here).

  47. Filbertz says:

    studying Judaism is a lot broader “subject” than most would admit…hugely divergent strains and systems. I’m suspect of those who hawk Jewishness because the vast majority are swimming in waters way over their heads. Most protestants/evangelicals who push the Jewish connection lack the intellectual, theological, sociological, and educational chops to speak soundly concerning their topic. I read Herman Wouk’s book “The Language God Speaks” and realized I’m an intellectual pollywog in a very vast pond…despite my training and experience with the Bible.

  48. brian says:

    I do agree with MLD that the church does much good and has for many centuries. I think I am coming to the conclusion that I can no longer believe all aspects of the faith as I once did. This weekend was one of the most agonizing and it started with the debate last week or should I say it came to a head. Anyways take care all please pray for me I am going to do alot of thinking. Thanks

  49. Mark says:

    I love the idea of celebrating the stories of good pastors but i’d be hesitant to Telly stories about CC pastors. A certain regular on this blog would likely immediately counter with charges of complicity with all of CCs problems abuses eyc

  50. Mark says:

    I agree with MLD regarding the churches widespread devotion to works. I think Michael is correct that the Protestant church has also made it a point to separate faith from works. However the separation comes in the area of what is necessary for salvation. Works have nothing to do with getting is saved but once we are saved we should naturally do works

  51. Mark says:

    Happy birthday Sarah. You have alwAys demonstrated on this blog a patient and gentle heart, a discerning spirit and an impressive depth of knowledge.

  52. I lived in Santa Ana for about ten years in the 90’s, a few blocks from CCCM. Where I, at that time, attended the Saturday night mens prayer meetings. In Santa Ana there were a lot of young men being shot by gang violence and there were a lot of poor people. But not once in all of those years I spent in those prayer meetings did I ever hear one person pray for them. Even though ironically Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa is physically located in Santa Ana. This used to totally baffle me!

    And yet there were people who went into Santa Ana from CCCM who delivered food and clothing along with the gospel message. Red Wagon ministries was one of them, which was run by one of Oden Fongs sisters.

    My point is that there are those who are oblivious to their environment and there are those who are totally aware and active in doing what they can in any given Church, CCCM being a prime example.

    Happy Birthday Sarah, may all your dreams come true!

  53. sarahkwolfe says:

    Thank you, Mark for your very kind words! And for all the birthday wishes…it was a great day!

  54. Bob says:


    “I’m suspect of those who hawk Jewishness because the vast majority are swimming in waters way over their heads.”

    I kind of agree, but really think the heart of what is going on are people’s need to belong and have real community. It is often perceived by the strength of certain Jewish traditions, which are biblical, over the millenniums and a simple study of many Christian traditions one must become Jewish to fully know Jesus and enjoy that community. In my opinion the problem is many don’t understand that a lot of what is identified as Jewish today weren’t traditions Jesus and the Jews of the 2nd Temple period may have practiced.

    Orthodox Jews today have a diverse set of practice, traditions, and mysticism, which have developed during the years since the time of Jesus. Filtering through these traditions is difficult and many would hold up the heretic card as rapidly as many do in the Christian faith when opposition to their particular strain is encountered.

    What is a Christian to do? Don’t quit loving Jesus!

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